I visited Mumbai with my family by train in the first fortnight of June 2013. I travelled to Mumbai by Rajdhani Express where thankfully the experience was similar to last year’s. The one difference from last year is that there are proper stairs now to climb to the upper berth. And the food and service remains equally remarkable.
On the return journey, we took the cousin train – August Kranti Express, primarily because of ticket availability. We were relieved to find similar standards of food and service. Actually since it reaches Delhi an hour and a half later, we could enjoy the breakfast at leisure. Here is a short description of the journey.
The train leaves Mumbai Central station on the dot. Before the train can reach Dadar station we are already served our welcome drink, a choice of pineapple juice and mixed fruit juice. The juices are as good and sugar laden as any packaged juices can get, though I find the pineapple juice a little more refreshing. We now settle down to the relaxing rhythm of the train and go through the evening newspapers that have been delivered to us, as we await our high-tea tray. Soon thereafter, frenetic activity leads to four tables being set and a fully laden tray consisting of a soft and melt-in-mouth cheese sandwich, a samosa (I would have preferred the kachori that is served on Rajdhani Express), a pack of almonds, a passable laddu, an Amul chocolate and steaming hot tea/coffee.
The sun is now setting, leaving behind a mesmerizing orange hue. A beautiful lethargy is seeping in after the sumptuous tea, as the train rushes towards its destination. The super-efficient cleaner has cleaned the cabin. Soon, the serving team is back in action reopening the dining table and setting mats. The inexplicable charade of insipid vegetable soup accompanied with boiled vegetables, macaroni in tomato ketchup, some sweetish fried potato mash with soup sticks, butter, salt/pepper and for some bizarre reason, a cup of curds is the first course. Some of us manage to brighten the soup with the addition of butter, salt and pepper while others just leave it.
Soon the lackluster experience of the first course is forgotten with the arrival of the main course, which, as usual is superb. I have asked for a continental non-vegetarian meal, and three Indian non-vegetarian meals. The roast chicken is the first to arrive. Perhaps someone in the railways did read my earlier article and now the gravy of the roast chicken has been spiced it making it a great dish. It is accompanied by some more of the first course plate of boiled vegetables and macaroni (which are not really needed), and some bread and butter.
The Indian meal is superb, made even better with prompt service of the serving staff. There is the great railway chicken curry, spicy bharwan bhindi, freshly prepared yellow dal tempered with jeera, fresh phulkas, and veg pulao. The staff generously also serves us the veg course paneer capsicum, making the meal a wholesome, enjoyable experience. And any bowl before it is consumed is promptly refilled and fresh puffed phulkas never stop coming. The dessert is Amul Kaju Draksh ice-cream, which is a wise choice.
Soon thereafter the cleaner rushes in to clean the cabin yet again, the bed is made for us, and not much later we are fast asleep. We are woken up in the morning at 7:30 am with piping hot tea and marie biscuits. I miss the newspaper which is distributed in Rajdhani Express. The staff waits for us to freshen up, the bed is made quickly and when we are ready, freshly prepared breakfast is served. We have decided in favour of a cutlet and a masala omelette breakfast. At first we are served milk and cornflakes with a banana. Then come the made to order crunchy cutlets, fluffy omelettes with crisp toasts, butter, jam, sauce, and freshly brewed tea. We enjoy our breakfast in pin-drop silence. As we are digesting our breakfast we arrive at Hazrat Nizamuddin station, we descend into the chaos with a smile on our lips and a song in our hearts.
The first course of the dinner service is the only weak link in an otherwise delightful food service by IRCTC on-board Rajdhani and August Kranti Express. If any railway official is reading this post, this can easily be rectified by serving veg hot and sour or manchow soup with a nice salad or spring rolls. In terms of a travel experience, the two trains (Rajdhani Express and August Kranti Express) are more or less on par, and are a class act.
Rating out of 5
Food: 3.5 | Ambience: 4.0 | Service: 4.5 | Overall: 4.0
Meal for two: Part of the ticket| Alcohol: Prohibited | Credit Card: NA | Timings: 5:40 PM to 10:55 AM
Address: On board August Kranti Express